One of the biggest problems providers have is how to keep enrollment spots filled. In California, where I live and my business is, children are considered infants until the age of 2 years old. Providers are also limited to the number of infants we can legally have enrolled at one time. Let me show you how offering a Pre-Enrollment Childcare Program can help you keep your enrollment spots filled … in advance.
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Last updated: May 16, 2019
Years ago I remember being frustrated by having enrollment spots that I just couldn’t seem to fill. The problem was I was getting calls from interested parents, but many of them were from expectant parents that wouldn’t need the spot for many months to come.
Usually, I would tell parents to call me after their child was born and hopefully I would have space for them then. This was discouraging to parents because most likely I would not have a spot when they needed it. In which case, they would need to begin the search again, but now they were under the gun to find something they liked before they needed to return to work.
But it was frustrating for me as well. Having to turn away a potential client can be hard for a provider.
I knew there must be a solution to my need for new clients and the parents who needed care, just not right away.
What is a Pre-Enrollment Program?
Born out of a Need
I wish I could say that I thought of the solution in an “ah-ha” moment, but really it was a future client that proposed it to me.
So this mom was pregnant with her 1st child and realized that her work was demanding and would not allow her to change her schedule. She wanted to secure her childcare well in advance so she didn’t have to worry about finding something during her maternity leave. She asked if I would hold the spot if she paid for it. I perked up.
She said she would pay for the spot for several months in advance so that she could ensure it was available for her baby when she needed it.
Now that’s planning and smart!
Of course, I said YES! I mean this was a win, win right?!
I would have a new client and didn’t have to do any work for several months till the baby came. It was kinda cool actually, sort of like me expecting a baby too (only better, no labor pains).
Mom didn’t need to worry whether or not I would have space available and she was at peace knowing where her child would be long before she even gave birth.
A Solution to a Problem
So that is how my Pre-Enrollment Program was born. It was actually someone else’s idea. But it was a good one.
It’s true. You CAN build a business if your business finds a solution to a problem.
Actually, to be honest this was the first time I even considered expanding my services beyond the usual full or part-time enrollment options.
Soon I had more calls requesting the same sort of arrangement. One parent met with me and their need was very far off. I didn’t really think it was fair to charge them the full tuition for nearly half a year before they needed it.
With that client, I agreed to hold the spot for the extended period but for half of what the total tuition would have been. That’s when I started sorting out the particulars of the program.
I have been offering a Pre-Enrollment Program ever since. I even gave it a cute name; PEP for Pre-Enrollment Program (get it?). Here’s how it works:
How to Start A Pre-Enrollment Program
When to Pre-Enroll
Providers can count on some enrollment spots being vacated by older children just about annually. I keep a constant tally on when an infant spot will be available in my program by charting out which children will be turning 2 in the coming 12 months.
From that, I count back nine months, let’s say that’s June. I need to target expectant parents who will be due during that month or close to it.
Now I put up ads for parents who are expecting in the month of June. My ads speak to the concerns of that parent. I talk about the low availability of infant spots due to the limit of spots a provider has for that age group. I relate to their need to secure the spot they need in the program they want (of course that’s my program, lol). Then I seal the deal by giving them what they need, the solution, my Pre-Enrollment Program.
I have a separate contract for PEP enrollments. In the PEP contract, I require an expected birth due date as well as an expected first day of care. Parents are required to pay a non-refundable monthly holding fee to hold the spot.
This ensures that they will not likely pull out leaving the spot vacant unexpectedly.
Aren’t I giving up a lot of income while waiting for a baby to be born and even longer before they will actually be in care?
I know what you are thinking; aren’t I giving up a lot of income while waiting for a baby to be born and even longer before they will actually be in care?
Well actually no.
Remember I have mapped out the vacancy so in fact, the spot is still being used by the child that has not yet turned 2 years old. So, in reality, the spot is not currently available. It’s occupied by a current enrollee.
So how can you set up a Pre-Enrollment Program for your business?
- Figure out when you will have infant spots available, say for the next year.
- Post ads offering to reserve those IN DEMAND infant spots for the month when your enrollment spot will be available.
- Pre-enroll families in advance with a deposit of monthly reservation fees.
Now adays, I rarely have infant spots available.
Creates a BUZZ
Having a way to pre-enroll future clients has allowed me to fill spots in advance. This helps me to avoid extended vacancies when spots become available. It also has had the effect of creating a buzz for my business.
Former parents have shared on mommy blogs of how happy they were to be able to have the option to pre-enroll through my program. They shared that anyone interested in securing a spot should call my business ASAP to see if they could lock down a spot.
Nowadays, I rarely have infant spots available. I proudly tell prospective parents that some children were enrolled even before they were born.
Fill a need
As I said before, prior to that 1st client asking to reserve a future spot, I hadn’t even considered other services I could offer other than full or part-time enrollment. Ever since then I have tried to be open to listening to what my clients need. Then I try to come up with a solution (service) to meet those needs.